Desperate Surgery in the Pacific War

Doctors and Damage Control for American Wounded, 1941–1945

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About the Book

Caring for the wounded in the World War II Pacific Theater posed serious challenges to doctors and surgeons. The thick jungles, remote atolls and heavily defended Japanese islands of the Pacific presented dangers to medical personnel never before encountered in modern warfare, as did the devastating new kamikaze attacks.
Sophisticated treatments, including complex surgery, were by necessity far removed from the fighting, requiring front line doctors to do the minimum—often under fire—to stabilize patients until they could be evacuated: “damage control,” it would later be called. Navy doctors responsible for thousands of sailors aboard fleets in battle found caring for the wounded daunting or nearly impossible. Yet to save lives, medical resources had to be kept as close as possible to the action. This book systematically details the efforts and innovations of the doctors and surgeons who worked to preserve life under extreme peril.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Helling, M.D., is a professor of surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. He has spent his career in clinical surgery and surgical education, with a special interest in trauma surgery and trauma system development. He was a member of the United States Army Medical Corps, serving nine years in the Army Reserves and receiving an honorable discharge in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel.

Bibliographic Details

Thomas Helling, M.D.
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 476
Bibliographic Info: 18 photos, 10 maps, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6421-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2567-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments ix

Preface 1

Prelude 4

I. Homeland

 1. The Dawn of Damage Control 13

 2. Interlude 27

II. The South Pacific

 3. The Solomon Islands 42

III. The Southwest Pacific

 4. Portable Surgical Hospitals, Burma and the Buna Campaign 95

 5. The Seventh Amphibious Force 115

 6. The Surgical Consultants 148

IV. The Central Pacific

 7. Betio, Tarawa Atoll 154

 8. Saipan, Marianas Islands 179

 9. Shock 204

10. Abdominal Injuries 212

11. Peleliu 220

12. Arterial Injuries 241

13. Chest Injuries 245

14. Iwo Jima 251

15. Head Injuries 276

16. Extremity Injuries 280

17. Okinawa 285

V. The War at Sea

18. Savo Island and the Naval Battles Off Guadalcanal 324

19. The Fate of the Princeton and the Birmingham 336

20. Taffy 3 340

21. The ­Ill-Fated USS Franklin 348

22. Kamikaze 353

23. Burns 378

VI. In Search of Heroes

24. The Ships 385

25. The Men 395

Epilogue 421

Chapter Notes 429

References 453

Index 461